ByJohn S. McClenahen The U.S. housing market remains hot. Although sales of existing single-family homes slipped to an annual rate of 5.88 million units in February, they were at the second-highest level since record keeping began in 1968, says the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Washington D.C. The decline -- of 2.8% -- was smaller than economists' consensus forecast of a 9% fall to 5.5 million units. "At first glance, this level of activity doesn't seem sustainable, but strong market conditions and good weather have given us some unusually strong levels of existing-home sales," explains David Lereah, the NAR's chief economist. "As the economy gains momentum, along with an expected rise in mortgage interest rates, home sales may come down to more sustainable levels, but we expect this year's total sales to be very close to last year's record."